St Edmundsbury Borough planners admit ‘serious mistake’ after Guildhall Street developer slams ‘gaping inconsistencies’

The former Motorspares shop in Guildhall Street, Bury.

The former Motorspares shop in Guildhall Street, Bury. - Credit: Archant

A “gaping inconsistency” in planning has angered a Bury St Edmunds developer, with St Edmundsbury Borough Council failing to follow their own procedure.

Barry Denny

Barry Denny - Credit: Archant

For over a year Barry Denny and son Matt have been trying to convert the dilapidated former Motorspares shop on Guildhall Street into three dwellings.

They were denied permission for three separate applications on the grounds that neither provided off-street parking and that the plate-glass shop windows were not maintained.

In December last year, an application to convert a Grade II listed shop at 14 Brentgovel Street into one dwelling was allowed permission, despite not providing parking or even bicycle storage.

Barry Denny wrote to the council’s head of planning Steven Wood asking for an explanation why different criteria seemed to apply.

He said: “Our building is not listed, is not in the Business Improvement District and is further from the centre.

“We were told we had to maintain our plate glass shop front windows, while they were allowed to sub-divide them, something never mentioned as an option to us.

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“The planning officers are a law unto themselves, it makes no sense that they should be permitted while we can’t.”

In a much-delayed response from Mr Wood, seen by The EADT, the council revealed they did not approach Suffolk County Council highways, who advise on parking, describing it as an “omission”.

Retrospectively, the county highways’ officers said they would have recommended refusal on the grounds it would be “detrimental to highway safety”.

The borough council are unable to change the decision, despite the revelation that had policy been followed, the application would have been denied.

Mr Denny said: “This demonstrates a clear and gaping inconsistency in how planning applications are decided. In one case they go to highways, in another they simply don’t.

“I know it will not help my application, but people should be made aware that there are these huge inconsistences in planning.

“They’ve admitted they made a mistake, this is a pretty serious mistake in my opinion. It shouldn’t happen.”

Mr Denny and his son Matt, who run Lark Valley Projects, have tried to get permission to convert the distinctive four-storey tower at 31-33 Guildhall Street into two flats. In a separate application they have sort permission to demolish the single-storey side extension and build a house on the site.

Both have been denied, along with an original application for a similar conversion to residential use. The developers previously criticised planners for making the “incompatible” demands of maintaining the plate glass and providing off-street parking.

The developers are still considering what steps to take next and the borough council said it is working to support them in their bid to return the property to use.